Ideas and Experimentation
The Bell Curve Is A Farce
I was doing research on a new essay on growth and the farce that is Gaussian predictability (the bell curve). The premise was that true growth is a black swan. It’s only through experimentation that builds the model, and the model is outmoded soon after it is built. In essence, the bell curve model that most employees show their CEOs and shareholders is a farce — pure and simple. Far worse than that is a new league of corporate employees calling themselves growth hackers, who, for the most part, are chasing after this same farce every day in their MVMs (most valuable models) — like product lifecycle curve, people utilization curve, certain cohort analysis, and my personal favorite, the antler growth curve.
Those who do not think that employment is systemic slavery are either blind or employed.
―Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Some of us would rather work smarter than harder, so I study things that nerds like to study — like ideas, creativity, stories, movements, philosophy, politics, metaphysics, conspiracies, art, culture, data, encryption, and code. I admit, all are without claims of objectivity. I never seem to answer with subtlety at parties or family gatherings, where the most popular question is “So, what is it you do again?” Trying to explain how all these, and more, various interests and research habits come together to help small ideas break out, or whole communities reinvent, is a tongue twisting journey few people have ability or interest to follow. Let alone how it can apply to social movements and what is known as the truth community (made of mostly of whistle-blowers and their enablers — like investigative journalists, hackers, opsec analysts, authors, film makers, developers, and activists).
The New World: Measure Everything!
Laugh Out Loud, right? I came across this fabulous line in a death by PowerPoint PowerPoint dated 2014. This “new world” just arrived this year for a global IT conglomerate whose website took 43 seconds to load before I killed the tab. I’m sure they are innovative in other areas. The PowerPoint was confidential and filled with bell curves and age-old marketing ideas, wrapped in hyper awesome words like “growth hacking”.
So it seems, growth hacking is main stream. But, not really. There are still a few of us who don’t mind taking the title from time to time, but we work very differently. We work odd hours, read books with odd titles, ramble of odd things, and have way too many twitter accounts. Most of us have been categorized as No-Collar Workers, some of us remain independent, many of us work exclusively on small ideas that the world needs — and we all share the love to make magic happen…when we can. Most of us do not work in big companies and parade around claiming that we have invented a new world of measuring everything or use Excel to show bell curves of unimportant data.
We are all, indeed, obsessed with culture — whether we claim it or not. We tend to be the ones that people ask “How?” and we are the people who ask “Why?” five times, especially of authoritative ideals or objectives. What we value ourselves on is vision. We bring together a common set of ideas that unify and stitch together a community strong enough to foster innovation and advance human knowledge. We tend to believe that single individuals can change the course of history, and that the collective is the environment needed for this to occur, and that is all. We surely believe that the impact we can have is something we can’t really predict, but we can help produce or engineer the right conditions for the impact to occur. We believe in the magic of the universe, and the unpredictable nature of human behavior.
But alas, maybe you already know this.
The Network Effect and Cereal
Surely you have seen this image and heard the story. If not, check out this nice, albeit long, piece of work.
Cereal was the original growth hack. It started the movement, but it didn't sustain the rapid growth that the company has seen since. Airbnb is, quite literally, a rather fun and interesting example of making the bell curve look silly, and how to show an entire industry on how things could be, or in their case, will be.
Their approach has shed a light on mixing marketing with product, meaning with experience, transparency with love, — let alone nerds with hospitality. This pink curve represents the black swan of hospitality, still in progress, made by a small, scrappy team of inventive and playful people obsessed with experimentation. They market like the rest of companies, yes…but they did something most people just don’t get…they created a story, and it’s still being told.
Ideas Come And Go — Stories Stay